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Difference Between Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa

In the domain of medical science, there are a number of terms that look rather similar to each other, giving the false impression that they can be used interchangeably since they have a similar meaning and, in every probability, refers to the same condition. This is a mistake very commonly done in the context of the similar-sounding terms of “Anorexia” and “Anorexia Nervosa”. Nevertheless, it might be interesting and also enlightening to know that both these conditions, Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa, indicate a completely different set of psychological and physical conditions.(1)

Difference Between Anorexia And Anorexia Nervosa With Regards To Their Definition


The condition of Anorexia indicates a general state of loss of appetite. Much opposed to what people feel, Anorexia is not a condition where individuals suffer immense weight loss as the loss of appetite is not caused by a strong desire for losing weight. Personal image is never a concern in this context. Some of the common reasons that spark off anorexia are side effects to medication or even depression. Often Anorexia happens to be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.(1) Commonly, it has been seen that people diagnosed with cancer experience a prior condition of Anorexia. Even those who suffer from other forms of debilitating conditions can develop the condition of Anorexia. Hence, it can be safely concluded that anorexia is a condition that is much physical in its nature and cause.(1)

Anorexia Nervosa

Quite different from Anorexia, ‘anorexia Nervosa’ is an essentially psychological disorder that occurs due to a complete aversion to eat anything. A damaged perception of one’s body image is generally the root cause of the condition where the person slowly develops an acute fear of weight gain. Like every other psychiatric problem, this problem also has a physical manifestation where the affected individual has a critically low body weight. The person suffers from an acute low self-esteem and a completely distorted body image which leads to impaired food intake to a critical extent. In addition to a serious eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa patients also make continuous use of laxatives and diuretics for losing weight. Some of them even develop the habit of vomiting food soon after meals.

Other Differences Between Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa

The first and the most important area of difference between Anorexia” and Anorexia Nervosa is that: In the first case i.e. Anorexia, it is a simple loss of appetite the reason for which can be found in some underlying condition in the body of the patient. Patients of Anorexia loose appetite, they do not develop a fear for food which could lead to weight gain.

On the other hand, we see that Anorexia nervosa is a condition where the individual suffers from a distorted psyche, where the person has a faulty body image and an acute fear of gaining weight. These patients do not lack appetite but they forcefully restrict their food intake to a critical level.(2)

Weight Changes: Anorexia is not a condition that will be marked by a sudden drop in the weight of the patient. The patient might or might not experience a loss of weight; even then the drop in the BMI will not be all that critical.

However, in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, we see that the drop in the body weight happens to be quite worrisome.

Resort to Harmful Ways: As mentioned in Anorexia the patient’s loose appetite as a side effect of other conditions in the body, the patient does not intend to lose weight consciously. Hence they do not restrict calorie intake forcefully.

However, in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, we see that since the patient makes up their mind to lose weight anyhow, they often resort to a number of harmful other ways such as misuse of diuretics and laxatives or even a practice of vomiting immediately after meals.(2)

Differences in Treatment Between Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa: The nature and the tenure of treatment in these two conditions are also quite different. In the case of Anorexia, we see that the underlying conditions in the body that is resulting in loss of appetite must be addressed so that the person can gain back his or her earlier appetite.

However, in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, the treatment involves mental health care and methods to correct the mental distortion and faulty body image and the trigger factors that led to the condition must be addressed. The treatment for Anorexia Nervosa will cover a number of different processes such as psychiatric counseling, medication, nutrition management, etc. There are chances of relapse and the process of Anorexia Nervosa treatment can be a long one.(1,2)


So now when you take a detailed look into both the conditions, Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa, one thing that stands out as rather apparent is that these two terms even if sounds similar cannot be used interchangeably. These two conditions have more dissimilarities than similarities.(1,2)

The only point of similarity between Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa is that in both cases the calorie intake of the affected people goes down. However, the reason due to which the calorie intake goes down is very much different from each other. If in the case of Anorexia this loss of calories cannot be controlled due to physical reasons, in the case of anorexia nervosa it cannot be controlled due to psychological reasons. The diagnosis must be done in a proper way so that the right treatment is provided to the patient. It is only with a proper treatment that the patient can overcome the condition in a better way.


  1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia
  2. Read B. (2015) The difficulty with anorexia nervosa treatment: the psychological differences between anorexics’ and normal eaters’ approach to food. International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 1(4):117-119.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 24, 2020

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